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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Police Officer
Old 05-30-2008, 11:27 AM   #1
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Police Officer

Hey Guys,
I'm 23 years old and I have been working in the financial industry for about 5 year now. I currently manage a small bank in my hometown of Maryland, and i've been a manager here for a year and 3 months.
I also compete in Mixed Martial Arts, and i actually had a successful debut fight a few months back.
Recently, i've been feeling pretty bored with work, and feeling the need for a career change. i'm looking for something with a bit more excitement.
if anyone has experience in law enforcement or is familiar with it, can i please have some pros and cons?
i know an obvious Con would be the risk of the job, thanks
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Old 05-30-2008, 11:55 AM   #2
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Pros: You know you are doing something positive and valuable for your community. You can probably retire a lot younger than in most occupations.

Cons: The pay is usually awful and every minute of the job isn't that exciting (from what I am told by someone close to me who has been in law enforcement, on the streets). Your probability of ending up DEAD (no life, kaput, The End) or disabled for life is a lot higher than in nearly any other occupation. Don't just gloss over that fact - - think about it long and hard and how it really fits in with your goals and responsibilities in life.

Yes, I'm a mother. I admit it.
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Old 05-30-2008, 12:11 PM   #3
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Pros: You know you are doing something positive and valuable for your community. You can probably retire a lot younger than in most occupations.

Cons: The pay is usually awful and every minute of the job isn't that exciting (from what I am told by someone close to me who has been in law enforcement, on the streets). Your probability of ending up DEAD (no life, kaput, The End) or disabled for life is a lot higher than in nearly any other occupation. Don't just gloss over that fact - - think about it long and hard and how it really fits in with your goals and responsibilities in life.
True. It can be very rewarding and exciting but also very high stress. Also think of some of the calls you will be responding too and whether you can handle that psychologically (seriously). A couple of days ago, the police found an entire family murdered in Calgary, including two little girls under the age of 6. All of the officers that responded had to have counselling because the crime scene was so gruesome and because kids were involved.

My best friend's dad was a police officer (retired now) and he DISCOURAGED his own son from entering the police service.
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Old 05-30-2008, 12:41 PM   #4
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Con: You'll become a cynical jerk.

Pro: You can supplement your lousy income with bribes.

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Old 05-30-2008, 12:59 PM   #5
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The pay is actually quite good. Starting at around 45K and going to around 60K just for a regular officer with no promotions. That's pretty good. Also get very good benefits. If you start by age 25 you can retire with full benefits at age 50. Then there's the whole safety issue which you have to think about. I breifly thought about being an officer but at 6'6" i'd have a hard time riding in the car with all the equipment stuffed in there and if (when) the time came that I had to chase down a suspect, my knees would become a major liability. If you don't have or expect to have any physical limitations then definetly consider it.
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Old 05-30-2008, 01:09 PM   #6
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Pros: Get to carry a loaded weapon.

Cons: Usually get in serious trouble if you use it on those who need it the most!

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Old 05-30-2008, 01:24 PM   #7
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The pay is actually quite good. Starting at around 45K and going to around 60K just for a regular officer with no promotions.
Wish it was that good here! In New Orleans (the murder capital of the US off and on, where the bad guys have pretty much overwhelmed the police), pay for new recruits was just raised from $30,732/year to $34,797 last year. To me that doesn't seem like much in exchange for putting one's life on the line, day in and day out.

Further raises aren't likely for a long time. From what I hear, that pretty much ensures that the additional income source mentioned by Trek is the rule rather than the exception. That, plus working countless hours of physically and mentally exhausting OT. No wonder they have nowhere near the number of police that is needed.

On the other hand, if you get killed in the line of duty your family gets several hundred thousand dollars. If you get killed on your own time, fuggedaboutit.
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Old 05-30-2008, 01:42 PM   #8
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Pros: You get to shoot at folks........

Cons: They usually shoot back........
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Old 05-30-2008, 02:37 PM   #9
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I have a lot of friends who are cops, with a bunch of different departments.

1. Pay is a lot better than many think. Around here most departments start around $50K and get you to $60-65 in 18 months.

2. On top of that there is usually lots of overtime for those who want it.

3. You pretty much get to do what you want. After the training period you're usually on your own and don't have somebody watching over you all the time.

4. For those who take public service seriously you can help a lot of people, if your goal is to kick ass, you can do that too depending on where you work.

5. You do get to carry a gun, but more importantly you get to be part of a fraternity that stretches nation wide. It amazes me what my friends can get no matter where they are just by showing their badge. (I don't mean anything illegal)
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Old 05-30-2008, 02:39 PM   #10
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Pro's = good pension
You can really fulfill any power trips you have
You get to drive as fast as you want

Cons =hours of sitting around doing nothing
seeing gory car crash results
getting shot at
Poor pay

Why not go join the Marines.
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:07 PM   #11
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saluki9 has done a great job of pointing out some of the advantages. Here are a few disadvantages to consider:
  1. you will almost certainly have to work strange hours. Some studies suggest that night shift work tends to lead to significant health problems and reduced life expectancies;
  2. driving around in a car for hours on end, especially in the middle of the night, might not provide the excitement that you are looking for (unless you get calls to attend - without back-up, natch - at bank robberies and so forth: which would be rather too exciting, at least on a regular basis);
  3. the divorce rate for police officers is apparently much higher than the average. And according to this source, Effects of Stress on police officers, police also suffer from increased rates of cancer, heart disease and suicide;
  4. many police officers (not all!) possess marginal intelligence. If you work with a partner, functioning at close quarters while listening to him prattle on endlessly about inane television shows, etc., might quickly become frustrating;
  5. urban police typically spend most of their time dealing with people who are drunk, drugged, mentally unbalanced, and verbally or physically abusive. They also have to clean their vomit and urine out of the back of cruisers;
  6. unlike firefighters, the police (who have the power to give tickets and make arrests) are feared by most people, and indeed hated by many;
  7. because of (5) and (6), most police officers quickly develop a 'siege mentality': cops versus the rest of the world. That is the dark side of the fraternity saluki9 mentioned;
  8. except for the most juvenile, after the first couple of days wearing a uniform and carrying a gun all the time would be a real drag (it reminds me of being saluted after I received my commission in the navy: enjoyable at first, but quickly became tedious).
There are quite a few good books on the lives of police officers. I suggest that you seek them out, and if at all possible speak with a few actual cops who have at least 10 years on the job.
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:12 PM   #12
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Cops get all the chicks. Plus you can be like Erik Estrada.

Erik Estrada

How cool is that!
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:20 PM   #13
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I have many friends that are cops, it's a good job with many bennies. I also think that some areas are much better than others to do this job.

Let's take NYC, the cops are not paid what they are worth but do get the bennies and the pension. Now go over the line to Nassau County which is the next county and the cops get more money than most can imagine. Many retire with pensions after 20 years of 100K +++ medical and others things. A guy I know retired 2 years ago there at 41 with 160K pension. He was a 1st grade dedective.

Now the cops in NYC have a much more dangerous job than the cops in Nassau. I think most cops go for 20 years and never shoot their guns and never get shot at.

Do the #'s from the age of 41 to lets say the age of 81 with a cola 160K pension. Now add in free medical, dental, eyeglasses and other bennies and you tell me if it's a good job. I wish I had it to do over again. I spent 35 years in the car biz and didn't get a hand shake when I left after staying in the same place for 20+ years working mostly 12+ hours a day.

But the bad news is there's no do overs.
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:27 PM   #14
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Ok, I'll throw in my 2 cents. I am not a police officer, however I've been a volunteer cop (in different capacities) for almost eight years.

Pros: Depending on your location:
good salary and pension
advancement in your rank
get experience in different departments
the wonderful feeling of helping people

Cons: Not being able to work the shift you want
Periods of 90% boredom and 10% panic
Seeing people at their worst
Wondering if you will get home alive each day

It is also my opinion that you need to love law enforcement...I absolutely love what I do. I wish I had started a career in law enforcement when I was your age.
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:58 PM   #15
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Con: You'll become a cynical jerk.

Pro: You can supplement your lousy income with bribes.

hahaha, thats funny
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Old 05-30-2008, 04:59 PM   #16
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It is kind of like some of the pilots' work, some hours of boredom with a few moment of sheer terror.
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Old 05-30-2008, 05:03 PM   #17
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hahaha, thats funny
It's not a joke - - it's true and that is part of the environment some cops must work in. Maybe you.
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Old 05-30-2008, 05:09 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Con: You'll become a cynical jerk.
I have never been a cop...

Quote:
Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Pros: You get to shoot at folks........

Cons: They usually shoot back........
And often they start shooting first!

I wouldn't do it for a brazillion dollars. But I am thankful some do want to be police, fire, and military...
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Old 05-30-2008, 05:22 PM   #19
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eddieb -

It's not about driving fast, carrying a gun, shooting people, kicking ass, fulfilling power trips, etc - that's mostly tv stuff & some of the public's perception - those cops who are in it for that are certainly not among the finest & often don't last too many years - (if they make it through probation.)

Considering your financial background I suggest you take a look at Special Agent (Criminal Investigator - Series 1811) positions with Secret Service, IRS, FBI, ICE, NCIS, etc - people with financial backgrounds (and computer backgrounds) are in high demand & pay currently goes to around 90K in the 1811 series after approx 5 years with most agencies (115K after 20 years or so - a bit more if you move into upper management or go to DC). It may help to get some Law Enforcement experience on your resume first by working for a big-city department or State Police (pref. State Police) but not always necessary. You may be able to get hired without.

Retirement for Fed LEO's is 20 years at age 50 (or you can go before 50 if you have 25 years) - Mandatory retirement at age 57 - COLA'd pension is 1.7% times high-3 salary time # years you worked - there is a Thrift Saving Plan (like a 401K) you can put 15.5K a year in & they will match up to 5%. You get a Special Retirement Supplement (non-COLA'd) till your'e 62 to partially match what you will receive in SS when you are 62. You can carry medical into retirement at about the same premium you paid when working. All of that of course is the benefit package currently - will it be the same in 20 yrs? - who knows, but the fed govt is usually pretty good about grandfathering existing employees when they change up something like the retirement package.

Of course big-city depts & State Police are also increasingly looking for folks with a financial background.

On the other hand, if you are really into the "cop" thing, serving the public directly, & working the streets as a uniform that's great too some people are really into that & I'm really appreciate them - many of them are highly professional and despite what some think it's not an "easy" job - there is a lot to know - there is the odd hours, lots of humdrum interrupted by period bursts of very high stress, shift work, etc factors to deal with - there is an adrenaline factor which some like and a whole lot of personal satisfaction to be gained in helping make & keep the world a safer place. You can later move into management or investigations on a larger PD as well, if you are motivated to do so - many are not - there are many outstanding street cops out there who could move higher in the organization but choose not too move above Sergeant or Detective - usually because the extra money is not worth the administrative hassles.

Big -city PD's & State Police can often have very good retirement/benefit packages also - better than the feds in some cases.

I've never worked for a Sheriff Office but I've worked with them a lot. My sense isthat many are highly political & often feature lower pay compared to other LE options - some people prefer working for an SO though. Retirement packages for SO's are sometimes not that hot. Often depends on the particular SO.

Probably the most important thing about many LE job is good people skills. If you don't have them you will need to develop them (unless you are going to specialize in something like computer forensics, etc)

Finally, there is the sense of cameraderie with all other LEO's you get from being part of "the thin blue line"
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Old 05-30-2008, 05:46 PM   #20
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I'm a retired police officer from Maryland, went for 29 years. What the others have told you is mostly true. It can be boring, tedious, frustrating, punctuated by moments of terror, and can be extremely rewarding. See my post on this thread:

http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...ded-32025.html

Divorce rates are higher, no question. At a meeting the subject of divorce came up and we realized that out of 15 people at the table, 12 were married, and only one was still married to his original wife, and she worked for the PD too so she understood the environment. Not all shifts were that bad, but it takes a very understanding spouse to make the marriage work. A neighbor two doors up from me was married to a DC officer and her complaint was that "he was never home". I wanted slap her - the guy was out busting his butt to support her and the kids and she whines about his hours! What did she expect marrying a police officer?

Understand that you are going to miss a lot of Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays and backyard barbecues. Most of your friends will be other police officers because they're the only ones who understand what you do and why. The friends you have now will mostly drift away because of your work hours. It will take an effort to keep them. Make that effort.

There is a phase where one can become extremely cynical (I did) but that wears off for most people, but some never do. Those usually find other work.

It's extremely depressing to knock on some stranger's door and tell whoever answers that their son/daughter/wife/husband is not coming home. Ever. For most that was the worst part of it and was referred to as "drawing the short straw".

But there is action and adventure the likes of which you won't see anywhere else this side of a war zone. That can be a plus or a minus depending on how you react to it. One guy puked in the commode before every midnight shift, convinced that he was going to die that week. How he did that for years is beyond me. For me the evening and midnight shifts were when "all the neat stuff happens" and I loved it.

But I was one of the lucky ones, I never got shot or seriously injured. About 20-25% go out on permanent disability. One of the finest officers I ever worked with is 45 years old and walks with a cane. During the time I was there eight were killed, some of them good friends, one a mentor to me. You have to be able to deal with that possibility, and so does your spouse and family.

When I went into the fraud section (mostly a desk job, but interesting in it's own way) my wife was about doing cartwheels on the front lawn because I was off the street and it was straight day work with weekends and holidays off - a rare and coveted position in a 24/7 agency. My mother, then still living, breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Ever see somebody do something they shouldn't and want to do something about it? Well, you get to do that.

Yeah, if I was 22 I'd do it again, no question.
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